Friday, November 13, 2009

Elizabeth's Journey As Hero

1st Post on Pride and Prejudice. Finally, back to my topic on Mythic structures in literature.

If the novel Pride and Prejudice follows the Hero's Journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell, and as outlined by Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey, then Elizabeth will follow steps in a psychological journey of mythic proportions. What are the stages?

The beginning one reveals the hero's ordinary world. Shortly thereafter, the hero receives a call to adventure, often with an initial refusal. Afterward, a mentor often induces the hero to cross the threshold into an unfamiliar world to find their personal treasure. Only the strong survive in this new world, and even they are not guaranteed success.

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet's normal world is quickly revealed as is her journey, which is summed up in the first line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. So it is the dangerous journey of marriage, the pitfalls, trials, and tribulations of finding a life partner, and the uncertainty of a lasting love that Lizzy travels. Her world is the gossipy, limited upper-crust society of a small, 19th Century English town. This world changes when Mr. Bingley buys the local estate, Netherfield Park, as discussed by Mr. And Mrs. Bennet in the story's opening pages. The mother of five girls, Mrs. Bennet's goal is for her girls to be suitably married as fast as possible, for without a son, Mr. Bennet's estate is entailed away. This leaves her and her daughters' security at risk. The reader soon discerns that the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is not one of wedded bliss; however, in this society, girls are expected to marry and accept the resulting marriage no matter how successful or unsuccessful.

At the Assembly, Lizzy, after overhearing a snub of herself, snubs the snobbish Mr. Darcy. It is obvious that Lizzy's pride causes her to refuse her first call to adventure. Since her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley share a sudden infatuation, Lizzy's disgust for Mr. Darcy and her unwillingness to lower her pride and toady up to him like so many of her cohorts are wont to do, turns her from the only other eligible single man in the area. That situation changes with the appearance of her cousin, Mr. Collins, and with Mrs. Bennet as a marriage mentor to her girls, all hell breaks loose...

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:


  1. Great analogies, Rhobin. And isn't PandP a wonderful classic?

  2. Thanks, Sandra. Yes, PandP is one of my favorites, I suppose because the pursuit of marriage is still with us.